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Charleston Estate Planning & Asset Protection Blog

Friday, March 29, 2019

Protecting Your Pet with a Trust

For many of us, pets are a beloved part of the family.  Nearly 40 percent of all American households own a dog, and 30 percent of families have at least one cat.  With so many pet lovers nationwide, it is no surprise that more and more states have started to develop laws to aid pet owners in protecting their pets after their death.  Pets have traditionally been viewed as property, so simply leaving funds to a pet in your will is not effective. Today, every state has some form of law in place allowing for the creation of a pet trust.  Our Charleston, South Carolina pet trust lawyers discuss how you can protect your pet in the event of your death below.

South Carolina’s Pet Trust Law

Traditional estate planning laws left pets largely unprotected.  Though your pet is a family member to you, the law considers pets personal property.  Accordingly, if you attempt to gift funds to a pet in your will, your pet will not receive these funds.  Further, if you instead leave funds for a caretaker of the pet, there will be several drawbacks. First, your estate will need to go through probate before the caretaker ever receives the funds, leaving your pet unprotected in the meantime.  Even further, your named caretaker is under no legal obligation to keep your pet or use the funds for his or her actual care.

Recognizing these shortcomings, the South Carolina legislature passed a pet trust law in 2006.  Per the law, pet trusts can be created much like any other trust. Your attorney will help you to create a trust that holds funds to be used exclusively for the care of your pet during the pet’s lifetime. In your trust, you will need to name a trusted caretaker.  Your pet’s caretaker should be someone who likes animals and preferably knows your pet already. It should be a responsible person who you know will continue to care for the pet for its lifetime. You should also name a secondary caretaker should the need arise.

You will want to place enough funds in the trust to provide for the needs of the pet.  Start by calculating the pet’s average lifespan. Then look to normal pet expenses, including costs for items like food, veterinary care, grooming, medications, supplies, and the like.  Should excess funds exist upon your pet’s death, you can put a clause in the trust that states where these funds should go, which could include the caretaker or a charity. Contact an estate planning attorney to get started protecting your beloved pet today.

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Wiles Law Firm, LLC helps clients with their estate planning needs in Charleston, South Carolina and the surrounding areas such as West Ashley, Summerville, North Charleston, Mount Pleasant, and John's Island.

Information on this website is not legal advice. Further, viewing of the enclosed information does not create an attorney-client relationship with Wiles Law Firm, LLC. Matters will be handled by attorneys who primarily practice out of our office in Charleston County located at 852 Lowcountry Blvd., Ste. 101, Mt. Pleasant, SC 29464. M. Emerson Wiles, III is the attorney responsible for this advertisement.

Any result Wiles Law Firm, LLC may achieve on behalf of one client in one particular matter does not necessarily indicate similar results can be obtained for other clients. Please contact a South Carolina estate planning attorney or one of our attorneys with Wiles Law Firm, LLC for a consultation regarding your unique estate plan.

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